Across the country on December 25, the Christian communities will be celebrating Christmas. Churches and homes will be decorated in a traditional way and Christmas trees hung with glittery baubles. Gifts will have been bought to place at the bottom of the tree to be opened by excited children on Christmas morning. Carols will be sung and prayers said all over the world where Christmas is celebrated, but here in Pakistan, as Christians and other minorities look back over the last year, their memories are tinged with bitter sadness. For most of us, the memory of the bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar on September 22 is a fading memory, but for the small community of Peshawari Christians, the memory is all too fresh. There is still no clear indication as to who was responsible for the deaths of 82 people on that dreadful day, and virtually every Christian family in the city had a member that died or was wounded.
This has been a year that has seen the quiet exodus of dozens of Hindu families from Balochistan, driven out by threats and in some instances, force. Sectarian killings are commonplace such is their frequency. No member of any of our rainbow of minority faiths and sects feels safe from persecution, ostracism or prejudice. Graves are violated and headstones overturned. A dark tide of intolerance has crept upon the nation. Yet, not all is bleak, and in Multan, Muslims went door to door giving gifts to Christian families in a splendid gesture of interfaith harmony that should be a model for us all. Christmas Day, December 25, is also the day we celebrate the birth of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the man who more than any other individual brought Pakistan into being. He would be saddened by what he saw today, his dream sullied. Despite all this, Christmas for many is, in the words of the carol, a time to bring “tidings of comfort and joy” to all mankind and we wish all those celebrating it today a happy Christmas.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2013.
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